75 Percent Less Fat: No. 48

I was hesitant to include the next entry on the list given I just discovered it before Christmas. But then I said screw. I want to keep listening to new music for as long as I can, and not just replay the old favorites. In that case, I ought to include the best of the brand new.

I stumbled upon the group in late fall, when I heard the single Eden on Inhailer, which has become my go-to online radio station over the past few months. On first listen I immediately wondered “Who is this?” which is what I’m always looking for in a song, and a radio station.

The band is Makthaverskan, a Swedish quartet. The album is III, but don’t judge an album by its unoriginal title. The music blends post-punk edge with some dream pop atmospherics, a mixture I find consistently irresistible. Fronting it is Maja Milner, a young woman who delivers searing, impassioned and occasionally profane vocals from start to finish.

Highlights here are the aforementioned and ironically named Eden,  the pleading Leda, and the confused Siren.

Important Information:

Name: Makthaverskan, III

Released: 2017

Record Company: Run for Cover Records

Running Time: 38:06

Track Listing:

  1. Vienna
  2. Leda
  3. In My Dreams


  1. Witness


  1. To Say It As It Is


  1. Eden


  1. Siren


  1. Front


  1. Comfort


  1. Days Turn Into Years



TBtB: Kansas City Royals

Part 10: Kansas City Royals

As you might have noticed, we’re alternating between AL and NL parks in this exercise, just like they used to do with the All-Star Game before All-Star Game hosting duties became a prize for successfully extorting local municipalities.

The good folks of Kansas City have been spared such a fate, as the local nine plays its ballgames in one of the oldest facilities in MLB. I haven’t been there (though I did look on from nearby a few years back – oddly enough, a few hours before the Royals were set to play their home opener), but it still looks like a gem.

Like some others on the list, the park has undergone a name change, though in that case it went from the vanilla Royals Stadium to its current Kauffman Stadium. The change was made to honor its former owner Ewing Kauffman, one month before he passed away. In other words, it was the good kind of change, the kind that almost never happens.

Kauffman is probably the frontrunner, but we’ll see if we can get a few worthwhile replacements, if necessary.

Ballpark History

Built: 1973

Capacity: 37,903

Name:  Kauffman Stadium, 1993-present, Royals Stadium 1973-1993.

Other ballparks used by club in its current city: Municipal Stadium, 1969-1972. Also used by Kansas City A’s from 1955-67.

Distinctive Features: Obviously, the fountain behind right field; long-standing crowned scoreboard in straightaway center; Buck O’Neil legacy seat in Section 101; symmetrical outfield walls (hey, they’re distinctive now).

Ballpark Highlights:

In 1973, Nolan Ryan threw the first of his seven career no-hitters for the visiting Angels.

In the Royals’ 148th game of the 1980 season, George Brett went 2-4 in a 13-3 win over the A’s, pushing his season average to .400, the latest anyone was over .400 in the last 70 years.

In 1985, Jorge Orta reached on an infield hit, sparking a 2-run, ninth-inning rally in Game 6 of the World Series. The Royals would blitz the Cardinals the following night to win the club’s first World Series title. That’s it. Nothing else happened.

In 1915, KC rallied from a four-run deficit in the eighth, and a one-run deficit in the 12th, to beat Oakland in the AL wild card game, which marked the club’s first postseason contest in 29 years.

Two weeks later, with tying run Alex Gordon standing on third, Madison Bumgarner got Salvy Perez to pop-out to third in Game 7 of the World Series. The Royals would avenge the loss in the Fall Classic the following year.



Going Green: 88 Lines

As mentioned in one of my Christmas features, I’ve done a few song parodies through the years. I did a couple of Christmas-themed ones back when I was a sports columnist – my favorites Albert Belle, to the tune of Jingle Bells, and Deck The Halls (with Wanted Posters), a tribute to the lawlessness running through the Nebraska football program at the time.

But my all-time favorite parody song was done at Baseball Think Factory. It was sparked by a news story about 37 Comments about 37 Baltimore pitchers. I really had no choice but to extend that to the full 88.

I shudder to think just how much time I spent turning this one out, particularly since keeping the proper syllable count and cadence has always been paramount for me in these time-wasting endeavors. I hate the lazy parodies that disregard the rhythm of the original.

This is another installment of Going Green, where I reuse old material in this new venue.

88 Lines About 44 Pitchers

The Dykstras

Pedro was a Catholic boy,
Still unsigned at this late date
Jeremy was a different type,
Sabean quickly sealed his fate
Dontrelle is a poor boy,
All his best days in his past
Felix, on the other hand,
Like royalty is built to last.

Huston was a nameless boy
A geographic memory.
Paulie was a Jesus-freak,
He liked that kind of misery.
Trachsy had this awful way
Of not delivering the seed.
Mark of Ozzie’s pitching staff,
Races through at breakneck speed.

Mark P. was an archetype,
The master of the rehab start
David thought baseball second best
To masturbating at the park.
Rick H. was a lonely voice,
Against the sport’s past backside stab.
A.J.’s point of view was this:
Take whatever you can grab.

Ugie is a bad, bad boy
Who’s best advised to hold the soap
Frankie loves to close the door
Giving Mets fans cause for hope.
Jamie had birthday parties that
Made grown men seem boys of wee
Teammate Brett has a wife
Who ought to pull a Lorena B.

Johnny R. the last redneck
Was undone by his tongue one day.
Todd however felt no wrath
By confining comments to the gays.
The Blue Jays Roy, who did not tire,
Was never, ever satisfied.
Carl P, in quite contrast
Took the cash and must have died.

Another Roy had a house in Houston,
Through his blood nothing shall pass
Ryan F now with St. Lou,
Shot steroids into his ass.
Sidney thought his life was empty,
Filled it up with alcohol.
Thirty-Eight was much too prissy,
He didn’t do that #### at all.

Uh-uh. Not Thirty Eight.

Mad Dog thought pitching was simple,
Just throw strikes upon the black
Ex-Mate Tom was a little different,
Toss ‘em a few inches past.
Ryan D. was the old-time hurler,
Always let his stockings fly.
Black Jack called himself a rocker,
Won an undeserved Cy

Dice-K was exasperating,
100 pitches through 4-plus.
Miguel wrote bad poetry
That still was better than his stuff
Crazy Turk he liked to pitch
While wearing teeth around his neck.
Smoltzie’s strange progression
Was as a better kind of Eck.

Johan was an artist hurler,
Deeper counts don’t shake him up.
That C-C bastard left the Brewers,
Took his money and his truck.
Roger C. had some problems,
Telling Congress the whole truth
Nuxhy fifteen threw for Cincy,
Then joined Marty in the booth.
Rick A. lost control one day,
Turned into a guy who slugs.
Bronson who played guitar,
Sang songs only Gammo loves.
Scott O. didn’t give a damn,
He was just a piece of ####.
Banny was much more my style,
Probably visits sites like this.
Carlos he went forty days
Drinking nothing all the day.
Barry drove his Giants team
Into the San Francisco Bay.
Aaron came from Ohio,
He’s a rebound candidate
Knuckler Timmy here’s a nod,
To end these lines of 88.

88 Lines About 44 Pitchers

Music in the Air

I am not a city kid. For all of my 50 years, save one month, I have lived in either the suburbs, the exurbs or the nothing resembling an urb. And that one month was merely spent crashing on college buddy Brian McManus’s couch in an apartment complex near the intersections of 65 and 465 on Indy’s south side, not exactly a gritty urban jungle.

And for the most part, I don’t regret having lived a life outside the urban centers. I like green grass and trees and places to roam, both when I was young lad myself and as a location to watch the kids grow.

But one of the things I’ve always envied about city life was the presence of street performers. When I visited New York growing up or my more frequent jaunts to Chicago now, I’ve always enjoyed and appreciated these pop-up public performances. Whether it was a ratty old guitar player, a well-dressed gent playing classical music on a violin or just some kids banging out staccato rhythms on makeshift drums, I love that major city streets often come with a soundtrack. Which is why I was so genuinely excited a few months back.

Cormac and I were making an early evening run to Town and Country for some groceries. When I stepped outside my car, I heard some sweet jazz music wafting through the misty air. I looked around until I found the source of that sound, a single man playing his saxophone, accompanied by a wireless speaker at his feet.

Huh? What the hell? When did we get a street musician?

I walked over to the man, listened for a while then threw a few bucks in his jar. A few weeks later, on a rush job trip to the same supermarket, I saw him again, standing on the small sidewalk equidistant between the pet and pool stores and the brightly lit Verizon building and neighboring Dunkin Donuts across the road. Sadly, I didn’t have time to stop.

Since then, I’ve been hoping to see him again. Finally, today, it happened. He was back in his now-familiar locale. I grabbed my phone to shoot some video. I also got his number, to find out a little more about this welcome addition to the Portage public sphere when I wasn’t on his time.

His professional name is Carmello Saxxx. He’s played his sax around the country for nearly 20 years, but who calls the Miller section of Gary home. He still plays gigs at nights at various local clubs, and sets up shop around Northwest Indiana on other days like he did here. I welcome all Portage residents to keep an ear out for him when they visit the Town and Country lot, if they haven’t already.

During the time I was watching and listening Tuesday, I saw two cars stop in front of him, the drivers reaching out to pass him a few bucks for his efforts. That’s been consistent with his treatment in our city, he says. “The support I’ve received and the response has been really encouraging,” he told me of his experiences playing here. I hope it continues, to keep him coming back.

Portage has grown tremendously since our family relocated here a dozen years ago. We’ve got the Region’s best movie theater, an outstanding park on the lake shore where a steel mill once stood, some great trails (that, I hope, will eventually connect us to the park). The new fire station is a gem, the police station has made good use of the mostly empty university building and Founders Square has shaped up nicely. Hell, we’re now creating our very own downtown out of thin air.

But for my money, few things say, “Hey this is a cool place to live,” better than being able to hear great music where car horns and associated clatter were all that previously snapped the silence. Bless you Carmello.

Video here.

Link Worthy: Thibs’ Tracker

I can’t believe I didn’t think to link to this earlier.

This is Ryan Thibodaux’s Hall of Fame tracker, the single best resource for following the upcoming BBWAA Hall of Fame election before the results are revealed. Thibs took his cue from the dearly departed Gizmo* at Baseball Think Factory, which simply tracked the votes of each publicly available vote, and some private ones. But he’s gone well beyond Repoz’s creation.

Thibs’ gives you everything you’d possibly be interested in knowing, plus some stuff you didn’t realize you ever wanted to know. Votes gained vs. lost, percentages needed among remaining voters to get elected, who voters would choose if not (wrongly) encumbered by the 10-person ballot, etc.

I’ve kind of had a ringside seat as Thibs has developed it through the years. I think I even pointed out a few votes to him in the early days (he needs no help now, as the BBWAA members go straight to him with their ballots).

*Which gained eternal fame when Frank Thomas admitted he’d been following “that gizmo” thing before his election in 2014.

75 Percent Less Fat: No. 49

The two Johns provide Album No. 49 with their 1990 release, Flood. They Might Be Giants, a name taken from a 1971 George C. Scott film, is the outfit founded by Massachusetts-born, Brooklyn-reunited John Linnell and John Flansburgh.

Unlike many artists on this list, I caught TMBG from the very beginning. I was just getting into college/modern/alternative rock in 1986 when the boys released their self-titled debut, featuring the 120 Minutes mainstay that hooked me, Don’t Let’s Start. They followed that with the fine Lincoln release. Later, they’d add some more studio albums, some educational albums and the theme songs to both Malcolm in the Middle and Higglytown Heroes. But they truly peaked with their third release.

Flood found TMBG at the apex of their quirky powers, with a mix of the funny and the strange and a delicious cover that would be unexpected from anyone but them, Istanbul (Not Constantinople). Hell, the album’s got both a theme song kicking it off: Theme from Flood (Why is the world in love again? Why are we marching hand in hand? Why are the ocean levels rising up? It’s a brand new record for 1990. They Might be Giants brand new album, Flood) and a song named after the band, and yet neither comes off as hubristic as Bad Company being Bad Company for the entirety of their days,  or Wang Chung requesting the rest of the world Wang Chunging for just a single evening.

Highlights: Lead single Birdhouse in Your Soul; Twisting, featuring references to the DBs and fellow goofballs Young Fresh Fellows; and my personal favorite, We Want a Rock, which spoken aloud sounds like it would be found on many of the metal albums it was sharing the time period with, but is just a simple song about wanting a rock to tie some string around.

Important Information:

Name: They Might Be Giants, Flood

Released: 1990

Record Company: Elektra

Running Time: 43:24

Track Listing:

  1. Theme from Flood
  2. Birdhouse in Your Soul
  3. Lucky Ball & Chain
  4. Istanbul (Not Constantinople)
  5. Dea
  6. Your Racist Friend
  7. Particle Man
  8. Twisting
  9. We Want a Rock
  10. Someone Keeps Moving My Chair
  11. Hearing Aid
  12. Minimum Wage
  13. Letterbox
  14. Whistling in the Dark
  15. Hot Cha
  16. Women & Men
  17. Sapphire Bullets of Pure Love
  18. They Might Be Giants
  19. Road Movie to Berlin




TBtB: Pittsburgh Pirates

Part 9: Pittsburgh Pirates

As mentioned, I haven’t been to all that many of the parks on this list. I have been to PNC, on the back end of a double dip with Cleveland the day before. While Jacobs Field was a really nice place to watch a ballgame, it was truly overshadowed by its rival 100 miles to the southeast.

I can honestly say I can’t imagine how you can make a park any better than this one. The setting is wonderful, the views are spectacular, and it just feels like Pittsburgh the moment you walk through the gate. It’s the gold standard for future ballparks, and I’ll be surprised if anyone tops it.

Still, with apologies to all the fine associates or teammates or whatever silly name they give the employees at PNC Financial Services, the name could use an upgrade. An initialed bank name – and who besides Vlad knows what the P or the N or the C stand for, if anything? – just isn’t good enough for this gem.


Ballpark History

Built:  2001

Capacity: 38,362

Name:  PNC Park 2001-present.

Other ballparks used by club in its current city:  Three Rivers Stadium, 1970-2000; Forbes Field, 1909-1970; Exposition Park III 1891-1909; Recreation Park 1884-1890; Exposition Park 1, II (1882-1883)

Distinctive Features: Limestone façade’ steel girders in left; spectacular views of downtown from much of the park; statues honoring Pirate greats Wagner, Maz, Clemente and Pops; Clemente Bridge outside park closed to vehicular traffic on game days; exhibit on city’s strong Negro League history; Allegheny River in reach for strong poke from lefthanded batters.

Ballpark Highlights:

In 2001, Jason Kendall became the first Pirate to get a hit in PNC Park, and later the first Pirate to get hit by a pitch there, equally fitting feats for the former catcher. Also equally fitting for the turn of the century Bucs, opponents managed both feats first.

In 2006, a two-out, two-run triple in the ninth inning by Michael Young off future Hall of Famer Trevor Hoffman led the American League to a 3-2 victory in the All-Star Game, extending the AL’s win streak to four games and its unbeaten streak to 10.

In 2013, the Pirates knocked off the Cincinnati Reds 6-2 in the NL wild card game in the club’s first playoff game in 21 years.

In 2015, Andrew McCutchen starred in a video I never tire of watching.